GANGNEUNG, South Korea (AP) — As Tony Granato watched the clock wind down in overtime, he found it hard to believe that an elimination game at the Olympics had to go to a shootout.
The Czech Republic knocked Granato’s United States team out in the quarterfinals in the same skills competition used in the NHL for regular-season but never playoff games. It took a shootout for the U.S. women’s team to beat archrival Canada for the gold medal, and although Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson’s goal and Maddie Rooney’s saves provided theater, such a classic game going to a shootout felt wrong.
”It’s hard when it’s all said and done to say that it gets decided by a bunch of breakaways, but that’s the rules,” Granato said.
And it’s likely to stay the rule even after two important medal-round games at the Pyeongchang Olympics ended in shootouts instead of teams continuing to play until someone scores like in the Stanley Cup playoffs. International Ice Hockey Federation president Rene Fasel said continuous sudden-death overtime is not possible in a tournament.
”You cannot let the team play the whole night,” Fasel said Saturday at a news conference in Pyeongchang. ”Yes, it’s a skills test, but it’s a game. … I will never convince North Americans to accept that but it is like it is.”
Fasel added, ”Maybe the Canadians can practice a little more the shootout,” and Granato was the first to admit that winning in a shootout doesn’t tarnish anything. U.S. women’s hockey coach Robb Stauber knows it can go both ways.
”Yesterday the men’s team lost in a shootout, and two of our coaches said, ‘God that’s a terrible way to lose,”’ Stauber said. ”And my first response was, ‘Unless you’re on the other end.”’
Being on the other end is no fun. Ask Eric Lindros or any of Canada’s players from 1994, or Canada’s women’s team that lost the Olympic final for the first time since 1998 after going back and forth for 80 minutes with the Americans.
”It sucks,” Canada goaltender Shannon Szabados said. ”It becomes more individual and less of a team thing, so a little harder to swallow but (it’s) the way it goes.”
IIHF overtime rules call for 10 minutes of 4-on-4 in the qualification, quarterfinal and semifinal rounds and 20 minutes of 4-on-4 in the final before a five-round shootout. The NHL implemented a three-round shootout in 2005-06 but never for the playoffs.
Shootouts have provided some of the most entertaining drama in sports, whether it was Peter Forsberg’s move to win gold for Sweden in 1994 that’s commemorated on a postage stamp, Dominik Hasek stopping all five of Canada’s shooters on the way to the Czech Republic getting gold in Nagano in 1998 or Brandi Chastain and the U.S. women’s soccer team beating China to win the World Cup in 1999.
That’s Fasel’s point: If it’s good enough for soccer, it’s good enough for hockey.
”We are growing up with football and we are used to it,” Fasel said. ”Football is the biggest sport in the world. It is. And they finish the final of the World Cup with a shootout, et voila. So I will never convince North Americans to accept that, but it is like it is. I cannot change it. I’m really sorry about that.”
AP Sports Writers Jimmy Golden in Gangneung, South Korea, and James Ellingworth in Pyeongchang, South Korea, contributed to this report.
Follow AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno at https://www.twitter.com/SWhyno